75 pages 2 hours read

William Bell

Forbidden City

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 1990

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Forbidden City

  • Genre: Fiction; young adult coming-of-age; historical fiction
  • Originally Published: 1990
  • Reading Level/Interest: Lexile 870L; grades 7-12
  • Structure/Length: 32 chapters; approx. 199 pages
  • Protagonist and Central Conflict: Alex, a 17-year-old Canadian high school student visiting Beijing with his journalist father in 1989, is interested in military history and believes that heroism exists mainly on the battlefield. His ideas are challenged when he witnesses the courage of students risking their lives to protest in Tiananmen Square.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Political violence, homicide, war, death

William Bell, Author

  • Bio: 1945-2016; Canadian writer of young adult fiction and picture books; former English teacher in Canada and China; wrote novels that were translated into nine languages; earned the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award (for Stones, 2002) and the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award (for Five Days of the Ghost, 1992; Stones, 2003)
  • Other Works: Metal Head (1987); Zack (1998); Throwaway Daughter (with his wife, Ting-Xing Ye; 2003); The Blue Helmet (2006); Julian (2014)
  • Awards: Ruth Schwartz Award (1991); Belgium Prize for Excellence (1993)

CENTRAL THEMES connected and noted throughout this Teaching Unit:

  • Heroism and Social Responsibility
  • Journalistic Integrity as a Means of Democracy
  • Western and Eastern Cultural Values

STUDY OBJECTIVES: In accomplishing the components of this Unit, students will:

  • Develop an understanding of the cultural and social contexts surrounding human rights that incite Alex’s conflict.